Before we dive into the nuts and bolts of brand reputation management, we want to apologize. You’re probably going to get a parody version of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” stuck in your head at some point during the reading of this article, and we can’t help but feel it’s our fault.
Because, yeah, we do give a darn about our brand reputation. And you should too.
A great reputation can skyrocket your business to new heights; a bad one can set you up for a long, slow struggle. (And if you have no reputation? Well, you probably need to brush up on your social SEO.)
The concept of a business relying on reputation is nothing new, of course. Before Yelp reviews, businesses thrived on word of mouth (and, uh, town criers?). But in 2023, social media gives brands a unique opportunity to manage their reputations on the front lines. Here’s how.
Bonus: Download a free guide to learn how to use social media listening to boost sales and conversions today. No tricks or boring tips—just simple, easy-to-follow instructions that really work.
What is brand reputation?
Brand reputation is the widespread opinion the public shares about your brand.
Are you reliable? Are you hilarious? Are you snobby? Is your spokes-candy smokin’ hot? What, exactly, are people quietly thinking — or not-so-quietly tweeting — about your brand and product?
For instance: Patagonia is beloved for its commitment to the environment (it even landed at #3 on the 2022 Axios-Harris poll of the most reputable brands in America).
In a perfect world, your reputation is based on your past behavior or actions — but sometimes, one wrong move can turn the world against you. (Or even worse, untrue rumors can spread and poison an otherwise pristine public record.)
What people think of you as a person may or may not matter to you (for example, if you are Joan Jett), but when it comes to your brand, your rep is everything.
A good reputation can help with recruiting and retention, too: the majority of U.S. candidates won’t work for a company with a bad rep. On the flip side, people are downright clamoring to apply for Gainsight, which was named the #1 best place to work by employee-review site Glassdoor in 2023.
In other words, a business that has a reputation for being trustworthy and authentic is going to thrive.
No wonder internationally beloved toy company Lego reported a 17% growth in 2022. Meanwhile, Wish, one of the brands that was featured lower on last year’s Axios-Harris poll, reported a net loss of $384 million that same year.
Your brand’s reputation is impacted by many different factors, such as:
- The quality and relevance of your products or services
- How you interact with customers or potential clients
- The brand values you promote (in words or actions)
- How you handle a crisis or mistake
- Your employees’ or partners’ behavior
- The working conditions of your office or production facility
- The content of your social media accounts, ad campaigns, or creative productions
Basically, any touchpoint you have with the public — online or offline — is an opportunity for judgment.
The good news? You don’t necessarily have to sit back and accept public sentiment. You can be an active participant in cultivating and defending your brand.
Whether you’re beloved by the world or loathed, social media is a vital tool for both shaping and managing your reputation. (And if you don’t have social media accounts for your business set up yet… what the heck are you waiting for? Here are 22 reasons you’ve got to get your brand online, ASAP.)
10 top brand reputation management strategies
1. Build your brand awareness
It’s hard to build a great reputation if no one knows about you.
For instance, did you know Neil Young had his own brand of MP3 player? And are you surprised at all to hear that it didn’t go super well?
Brand awareness is a measure of how well people recognize your brand, including how “aware” they are that your product or business exists at all.
Rather than a simple individual metric, brand awareness is a concept that touches on many different KPIs, from traffic to social share of voice.
Develop your brand aesthetics and voice, follow best practices for social media, and make sure to be on your best behavior as you grow that audience.
Wendy’s currently has 3.9 million followers on Twitter, because the social media managers have done such a spectacular job of building the brand’s digital reputation.
The account showcases a snarky, silly brand voice that has delighted the internet and captured the attention of millions. (Competitor burger resto Arby’s, comparatively, has 80,000 followers. No shade, just respect to the big W.)
— Wendy’s (@Wendys) April 28, 2023
Learn more about building brand awareness here
2. Keep your brand consistent
Strong reputations are built on consistency. That’s not to say you can’t have fun with your content (surprise ‘em with a livestream, why don’t you?), but rather that your audience should be able to depend on you to deliver great content, products and services with no hiccups.
Takis delivers absolutely unhinged recipes regularly on TikTok, for instance. Whether you’d want to eat a “crazy cucumber” or not, it’s comforting to know what to expect from the playful snack food brand.
The trick to consistent, engaging social media posts starts with a style guide.
3. Create social guidelines and a crisis management plan
Avoiding social media snafus starts with coming up with your own guidelines to follow in times of crisis. Chaos reigns when we let emotions rule our Twitter accounts.
Crafting a set of best practices for your social media accounts and a crisis management plan ensures your brand has a set of guidelines for how to behave in a worst case scenario. Thinking ahead about how to respond when a troll or PR nightmare comes along will help your brand appear as level-headed as possible if trouble starts brewing.
4. Contribute to your community
The best reputations don’t just come from carefully managing your tone and image — they come from offering genuine value to your community and cultivating connections.
Hershey has partnered with the Mmusic Initiative and uses its social platform to showcase the organization’s work. Pretty sweet move. (Because it’s a candy company? And also a nice thing to do? You get it, you get it.)
How can you brand give back and participate? How can your brand be generous and helpful to everyone else? Try creating a Facebook group for your fans. Respond to comments with respect and warmth. Ask your community questions and shout-out major contributors. Run a giveaway or contest.
Basically: be a good pal, and a stellar reputation is sure to follow.
Of course, not all brand-building happens online. You can establish brand awareness by contributing to your community in concrete ways like sponsoring events, offering corporate donations, or facilitating employees’ participation in charity work.
5. Approach partnerships with caution
Partnering up with other brands, influencers and ambassadors can be an amazing opportunity to get creative and spread the word about your brand. But teaming up with anyone means that you might catch heat for any of their mistakes.
A little research before you partner with another organization or person is always a good idea. Do their past posts align with your values? Have they been the subject of any controversy or drama that might put your company on the defensive?
Just because someone has a lot of followers doesn’t mean they’re the right ambassador for your brand.
6. Practice social listening
Whether someone’s totally trashing you or signing your praises, you’re going to want to know.
Set up Hootsuite Streams to catch all the hot goss, right on your dashboard. Streams allows you to create custom feeds with social posts relevant to your business.
You can filter posts by account, keyword, hashtags, and even location.
Streams display posts along with public comments and reactions, helping you effortlessly keep up with important conversations happening in your industry.
You can also set up a stream with your own content to keep an eye on how your posts are doing and easily engage with comments and reactions.
Hootsuite Streams can also help you spot potential brand crises early and protect your online reputation. By keeping track of brand mentions, you can do better brand sentiment analysis, easily collect valuable feedback, and step in before conversations get heated.
7. Be responsive
The quickest route to a bad reputation? Bad customer service.
— Scott Thomas (@sthomas311) April 30, 2023
But if you treat people well when they have a problem, your customer loyalty will be through the roof.
An Inbox management tool like Hootsuite Inbox may be known as a customer service tool, but it’s really a reputation management tool at its heart.
Why? With Hootsuite Inbox, you can bridge the gap between social media engagement and customer service by managing all of your social media messages in one place.
- Private messages and DMs
- Public messages and posts on your profiles
- Dark and organic comments
- Emoji reactions
- … and more.
The all-in-one workspace makes it easy to handle messages (not to mention positive and negative reviews) as a team, track metrics, create automated responses, and everything else you need to make sure you never miss a chance to make a customer’s day. This will greatly improve your customer experience, as your customers will get help more quickly and efficiently.
8. Track your social sentiment
Okay, so you know people are talking about you. But sometimes figuring out how they feel about you is a little trickier.
Powered by Brandwatch, Insights allows you to use detailed Boolean search strings to monitor social sentiment automatically.
You’ll also get word clouds showing the most common words used to talk about your brand. Plus, charts that benchmark your social sentiment against your competitors.
In addition to positive and negative sentiment, Hootsuite Insights tracks specific emotions, like anger and joy, over time. This allows you to look for sudden changes, or ongoing trends.
You can also filter sentiment by location or demographics, so you can see how sentiment varies across your audience. There’s also an AI analysis option to automatically identify the causes of significant changes in sentiment.
Insights is available to Hootsuite enterprise customers.
8. Build a social advocacy program
One great way to get people talking about you is to… ask them to talk about you.
A social advocacy program rewards folks who are singing your praises out there on the world-wide web. That might include your employees, your customers or your super-fans.
Glossier’s affiliate program offers commission, but your advocacy program could have different perks — VIP access, special swag, points you can redeem for prizes… follow your heart!
An engaged community leads to better sales outcomes. Brand advocates help you connect with potential customers and cut through the noise online. They can boost your visibility by:
- Showing off your products on social media
- Leaving positive online reviews
- Driving more traffic to your products
Learn more about creating a strong social advocacy program here.
9. Share user-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) is original, brand-specific content created by customers and published on social media or other channels. UGC acts as a trust signal, taking your brand authenticity to the next level.
It’s incredibly influential in shaping the perception of your brand on the market. People see other folks loving your tee shirts, and they start to believe that you’re making something special. Put more plainly: use peer pressure to your advantage!
Nike Running reshares posts from people who tag the brand, which leads to a (nice for Nike) vicious cycle of other people wanting to post their own content to be featured so they can be part of a cool, exclusive club.
Nike Running obviously isn’t posting anyone complaining about blisters… so there’s absolutely an incentive to keep public comments positive if you want some of that sweet, sweet Nike attention, right?
10. Practice brand safety
Brand safety means ensuring that a business’s ads aren’t associated with inappropriate content that could damage the brand’s reputation.
This includes creating policies and measures to protect the brand from appearing alongside content that could be offensive, controversial, illegal or unethical.
Brand safety is most often discussed in the context of paid ads. That’s because social media ads can be a big investment — but they can also pose a serious risk.
Read more about avoiding brand safety risks here.
How to measure brand reputation
1. Monitor brand and product mentions
Set up Hootsuite Streams to track official tags of your brand or use of your hashtag, but don’t forget to create streams to watch for misspellings and slang, too. If people are chatting about loving the pizza they got from “the Hut,” you’re going to want to know.
2. Measure the mood
It turns out that feelings can be scientific. Use an analytics tool like Hootsuite Insights by Brandwatch to crunch public sentiment into cold, hard numbers.
Social sentiment can be a powerful data point to help social media goals and set KPIs. Sure, tracking the number of followers or engagement growth is important, too, but knowing if your followers and commenters actually like you makes those stats even more meaningful.
With Hootsuite Insights you can also set up alerts for brand-sentiment changes so you can react quickly and mitigate risk.
3. See how you stack up
Your reputation doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Even if you aren’t that popular because you’re in a tough industry, it can be helpful to know just how much more likable you are than your competitor. So make sure you’re not just analyzing your own brand reputation; analyze your competitors’ reputations too.
People may not love one ride-sharing company, but if that ride-sharing company is still a more popular company than another ride-sharing company, they’ve got something to celebrate. (One more plug for Hootsuite Insights here, because it’s great for keeping an eye on what your competition is up to.)
Brand reputation FAQs
Why is brand reputation important?
Your brand reputation is important because it impacts both your sales and your ability to attract and retain talent.
Eighty-two percent of shoppers want to buy from companies whose values align with their own. People appreciate great customer service, good quality products, and positive working conditions. So if there’s a public perception that you have all of these things, your business is in the best possible position to thrive.
Conversely, if the public and media believe you offer poor customer service, are making unethical decisions behind the scenes, or offer terrible value, you’re probably not going to be having a banner year (or attract your next super-star employee).
Whether or not it’s true, the perception of your brand and the public sentiment of your brand impact consumers’ decision-making process. Ensuring that you have a positive brand reputation should be a vital component of your social media marketing strategy.
Pro tip: A social media management dashboard like Hootsuite can help you schedule reputation-boosting content, interact with commenters, practice social listening, and address negative issues before they spiral out of control.
Watch the video below for bonus social listening tips from our own social marketing team here at Hootsuite.
How do you determine brand reputation?
Determining brand reputation requires paying attention to what people are saying about you. And that means putting social listening and brand monitoring tools to work for you.
Here are two of our favorite ways to track your brand’s reputation:
- Hootsuite Streams is a tool for real-time social listening, allowing you to track mentions (even un-tagged ones!) of your brand, product, or campaign so you never miss an important conversation. Streams are available to Pro Plan users and above.
- Hootsuite Insights allows you to set alerts for changes to brand sentiment so you can react quickly and mitigate risk. With Insights, you can keep an eye on how certain products and campaigns are performing and adjust your strategy as needed. AI analysis helps cut through the noise and uncover emerging trends about your reputation. Insights is available to Enterprise users only.
How do you maintain a good brand reputation?
A good brand reputation starts with engaging, ethical behavior, of course. Try to do the right thing — be considerate to your employees, your fans, your followers, your investors, and everyone else you come across. (That good ol’ ‘do unto others’ rule will never fail you.)
But maintaining a positive reputation for your brand may also require some defensive maneuvers, too.
Social listening is the act of monitoring social media for mentions of your brand, your products, and your industry. With social listening tools like the Hootsuite dashboard, you can catch issues and complaints before they blow up into something brand-damaging.
What is an example of a strong brand reputation?
Trader Joe’s is a good example of a brand with a positive reputation. In a 2022 poll by Axios and Harris, TJ’s was ranked the #1 most reputable brand in America.
Why do U.S. shoppers love the grocery chain so much? It’s not just about those tiny peanut butter cups (though they probably don’t hurt). People see it as a highly trustworthy, highly ethical company with a clear and admirable vision and a great company culture.
The stores themselves are laid-back and welcoming. The products are wrapped in friendly packaging, and Trader Joe’s says it strives to embrace sustainability whenever possible. The social media accounts are positive and helpful, sharing recipes and inviting the community to take part in banana bread contests and conversation.
Save time managing your social media presence with Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can publish and schedule posts, find relevant conversions, engage the audience, measure results, and more. Try it free today.
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